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Oklahoma Sooners Football - Upon Further Review: Oklahoma’s secondary should be an area of strength

A quick look at the film shows a lot of things that should be encouraging to Oklahoma fans heading into Saturday’s game at Ohio State.

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Following Oklahoma’s dominant 56-7 victory over UTEP on Saturday, I took some time to go back and look at the film from the game. This film review was interesting because it gave me a chance to watch the starters in the first half and a lot of the reserves/younger players in the second half. Overall, the tape shows a lot of positives for the Sooners going forward — some areas that stood out were the strong offensive line, the running backs, and the secondary. Here is a breakdown of some observations from each quarter of the game.

1st Quarter

Offense

The first thing that really stood out was the strong running of Abdul Adams to start the game. Adams was elusive and showed that he could be a disciplined back. He waited for the holes in the offensive line to open up and then burst through them into space.

While Adams was impressive, the offensive line deserves a good chunk of the credit for dominating the line of scrimmage. The entire line looked powerful and athletic, from Orlando Brown at left tackle all the way over to Bobby Evans at right tackle. One interesting thing I noticed along the line was that left guard Ben Powers only played the first two series and then was replaced by Cody Ford for the rest of the game. It is not clear at this point if Powers got banged up or if Coach Riley is still deciding on a permanent starter. The coaching staff could also just be planning to rotate lineman in and out to utilize the team’s depth at the offensive line and keep the big boys fresh.

At the receiver position, the obvious star on film and in the game was Mark Andrews. He was great after the catch and seems to have a knack for finding the soft spot in the zone. At this point, it looks like Andrews could be collecting the Mackey Award come December. Some other receivers that stood out on film were freshman Cedee Lamb and grad transfer Jeff Badet.

Here are the first half highlights for Mark Andrews:

Defense

The first quarter tape from the defensive side of the ball shows that the secondary will probably be the strength of defense going forward. Jordan Thomas looked like he was in midseason form by making a few tackles in space and knocking down a deep pass down the field. On the other side, first-year starter Parnell Motley played close to his man, covered well, and also made some nice tackles in space. At the safety position, Steven Parker came up and made a big hit late in the first quarter that set the tone for the rest of the game. Parker is one of the leaders of this defense and when he makes big plays like that, the rest of the defense follows. Next to Parker was Will Johnson, who looked solid in coverage and seemed to be a bit more assignment-sound than Ahmad Thomas was at the free safety position last year.

The plays that stood out on the defensive side of the ball were on the first series for UTEP when they drove down the field with relative ease. The two players that were out of position on the drive were linebackers Emmanuel Beal and Kenneth Murray. They did not seem to be aligned correctly, which led to the UTEP offense breaking off a couple of big run plays that led to a touchdown. Following the first scoring drive that had Sooner fans panicking, Beal and Murray settled down and played well for the rest of the game.

Here is the big hit by Parker:

2nd Quarter

Offense

The stars of the second quarter were definitely the freshman. Wide Receiver Ceedee Lamb and tight end Grant Calcaterra both looked very comfortable in the Sooner offense and made several big plays. Lamb made a great catch down the field in traffic while Calcaterra ran a nice route to grab his first career touchdown catch. Another receiver that shined in the quarter was Senior Jordan Smallwood. Smallwood did a great job blocking down field and made a couple nice short catches on the sidelines. Smallwood is not the kind of receiver that will stretch the defense but he did show that he is a tough, physical possession receiver that can be counted on to move the chains and block to create lanes for other receivers.

On the offensive line, left guard Cody Ford is someone that stood out. He opened up a lot of holes for the running backs and did a great job protecting Mayfield. I could potentially see Ford permanently taking over the left guard spot in place of Ben Powers as the season progresses.

Defense

The Sooner defense really tightened up in the second quarter and a lot of it had to do with the defensive line and the outside linebackers getting pressure on the QB. Both Obo and Caleb Kelly showed that they could pressure the QB from the outside while defensive tackles Neville Gallimore and Marquise Overton applied pressure from the inside. This pressure up front reminded me more of the 2015 defense than the 2016 defense, which is a good omen going into Columbus next week. On top of this, the defense swarmed to the football and gang tackled really well. This was arguably the best quarter of defense for Oklahoma since the 2015 season.

3rd Quarter

Offense

Since Kyler Murray took the helm at QB to start the second half, the offense had a different look. Murray took a few plays to settle into the offense but after that he looked comfortable running the Air Raid. The receiver that stood out in the 3rd quarter was Jeff Badet, who had a nice jet sweep around the edge that almost went for a touchdown and caught a couple passes as well. Badet doesn't have the speed of former Sooners great Dede Westbrook but is stronger than Westbrook and did a nice job bouncing off tackles.

At the running back position, Trey Sermon was able to showcase his ability between the tackles throughout the quarter. He did a nice job finding the hole and continued to keep his legs moving even after contact much like Samaje Perine. It is also important to note that Sermon ran between the tackles of an offensive line that was stocked with reserves in the second half (although Oklahoma’s reserves up front aren’t too shabby).

Defense

What stood out on the defensive side of the ball in the third quarter was the fact that the Sooner linebackers (Beal, Murray, Kelly, Bolton) looked great in coverage. They were comfortable covering the inside receivers and tight ends for UTEP. In addition to this coverage ability, the linebackers displayed their ability to get after the quarterback, especially sophomore linebacker Mark Jackson Jr. On a couple plays in the third quarter, Jackson got into the backfield and forced the opposing quarterback into a couple poor throws. Jackson showed that he has the ability to get after the quarterback while filling in for Obo.

4th Quarter

Offense

The two newcomers that stood out in the final quarter were running back Marcelius Sutton and receiver Marquise Brown. Brown made a couple of nice catches and Sutton had a couple of great runs. Both Sutton and Brown flashed breakaway speed in the opener. It seems like just a matter of time before they find pay dirt.

Here are some highlights from Brown and Sutton:

Defense

Like the in the first quarter, the strongest positional group in the fourth quarter was the secondary. Strong safety Kahlil Haughton tackled well and knew exactly where he needed to be in coverage. He looks much improved since last year and doesn't seem in over his head at the safety position. Other young players that stepped up were corners Tre Brown and Tre Norwood. Both players stuck to their receivers and made tackles when they needed to. The loss of Jordan Parker definitely hurts the secondary but the young guys showed on Saturday that they could step up in Parker’s place.

Summary

Overall, there were a lot of positive plays for the Sooners to build on from this game. The biggest weakness that needs to be improved on is the run defense. The defensive lineman need to do a better job of getting off their blocks and getting to the running back while the linebackers need to make sure they know their gaps. That all improved a bit as the game went on against UTEP, but Ohio State is a different animal.